Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pandemic has Left Russians More Divided and Less Willing to Compromise than Ever Before, Psychologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – Ilya Latypov, a psychologist in Khabarovsk, says that in his years of practice, he has never seen broad social developments have such a major impact on the psychological state of people turning to him for help, leaving many of them increasingly isolated from others and ever less willing to cooperate or compromise with them.

            2020, he says, even without the pandemic would have seen “the intensification of the obvious entropy of our society, which is disintegrating into newer groups and subgroups. These are not inclined to compromise, are incapable of dialogue and attempts to find a common language but are ready to fight with each other to the last in the name of their respective truths.”

            According to Latypov, “the coronavirus has divided and continues to divide people not only into ‘deniers’ and those who recognize its dangers.” The problem is far larger than that with people divided on masks, quarantines, lockdowns and even whether Sweden or Belarus is the proper model for response (

            Now, these divisions have been joined by one over whether anyone should get the vaccine, a divide that threatens to lead people on each side to the barricades to defend their right or impose their view on others. In this situation, many find comfort in defending their views against those of others and are unwilling to try to engage in dialogue.

            Compounding the problems brought on by the pandemic, the psychologist says, was “the intensifying political reaction in Russia.” Opponents of the regime fell into despair and a sense of being condemned. For them, this year was viewed as “a final defeat when the powers achieved all that they wanted as far as the future is concerned.”

            Hopes for positive changes became “ever fewer, especially after the summer voting on the Constitution.” And more recently even as people laughed at the FSB for its failure to kill Aleksey Navalny, they did so according to the formula of Beaumarchais who observed that he laughed because otherwise he would have to cry.”

            “The stresses of this year – the putting off of plans, sitting constantly with one’s children, distance education, and cancelled vacations – are combined in chronic stress and a common heighted concern.” There were a few exceptions – people who got to stay home but don’t have children – but they only proved the rule.

            It has been “impossible to ignore the external situation: one way or another, it has had an impact on our psyches. Concern connected with the illness is always present even if people put on a brave front” because the more they do that, the deeper they drive their real fears into their mindsets.

            In fact, Latypov continues, “ignoring a problem is one of the worst reactions to stressful situations.” And it is one of the reasons why most Russians are in a state of “emotional exhaustion.” They find it difficult to deal with anyone, and they need a break to recharge. One can only hope the holidays will provide something like that.

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